Printed from the Annenberg Media Math and Science Project Teachers' Lab at
"A Private Universe" has been used extensively and successfully in workshop settings. While the usual participants are in-service teachers, the workshop may also include pre-service teachers, curriculum developers, administrators, parents or educational researchers. The workshop suggestions below assume that the primary participants are in-service teachers. The workshop approach may be adapted to needs of different audiences.
Suggested Workshop Plan
All elements of the following plan for a workshop have been tested by workshop presenters in a variety of settings. The workshop elements listed below are suggestions to use in tailoring a plan to fit your particular goals and audience. Adopt, adapt, or discard elements as you wish.
Before Showing "A Private Universe"
- Start off the workshop by discovering participants' concepts of teaching and learning. Ask participants to volunteer as many metaphors as possible for "teacher."
- Teachers can be like cruise directors, traffic cops, leaders, guides coaches, judges, or many other metaphors. As participants suggest metaphors, write them on the board or on an overhead.
- Have participants discuss the strengths and weaknesses of each metaphor.
Ask participants to volunteer explanations for why it gets hot in the summertime. Explain that you are not testing their knowledge but that you want to hear their ideas.
- List responses on the board or on overheads. Ask participants to vote on the most persuasive explanation, providing reasons to support this conclusion.
While Showing "A Private Universe"
- While showing "A Private Universe" stop the tape occasionally to supply additional information, challenging participants to predict what will happen next, or to discuss a particularly compelling or startling scene.
- Stop the video after Heather's teacher describes her as bright. Ask the participants to predict how well Heather will understand the material being asked of her.
- Ask participants to write down their predictions to the following questions:
- How do you think Heather will draw the orbit of Earth around the Sun? (Draw your prediction) Why do you make this prediction?
- Predict Heather's explanation for seasonal change. Why do you make this prediction?
- Predict Heather's explanation for moon phases. Why do you make this prediction?
- After participants write down their predictions, ask for volunteers to share their predictions with the group. "It is important that participants commit themselves to definite predictions."
- Ask participants if they have students like Heather. Would they expect these students to get the correct answers?
- Stop the video after Heather's alternative conceptions become clear. Have participants discuss their previous predictions in small groups.
- What surprised them about Heather's answers?
- What do they think accounts for her ideas?
Stop the video after the segment of classroom teaching.
- Have participants discuss ways to respond to the boy who explained moon phases with "clouds blocking the moon."
- Point out that such unexpected answers may be evidence of hidden alternative conceptions that may be shared by other students.
- Remind participants that the focus of the video is on the students' understanding. While participants may feel a natural tendency to critique the teacher, point out that the video only includes a brief glimpse of the lesson--certainly not enough to make a fair judgement. In addition, have them imagine the experience of having several technicians in their classrooms, taping lessons, and interviewing students. How would it affect their teaching?
After Showing "A Private Universe"
- Ask participants to share examples of unusual ideas that have cropped up in their classrooms.
- How did they address the students' ideas?
- Where do they think these ideas came from?
- Start a discussion of the relative impact of specific alternative conceptions. You may want to ask questions like:
- Which are the most important to confront in the classroom? Why?
- When can an alternative conception provide a step toward learning a more appropriate conception?
- Why should we care whether or not students learn such conceptions as moon phases, biological inheritance, the nature of electricity, or the particulate nature of matter? How can a deeper understanding of these concepts benefit students?
- Close the workshop by asking participants to review any issue or questions that they found significant or troubling.
- Show the list of metaphors for teaching and learning developed at the beginning of the workshop. Ask participants to volunteer any changes in their metaphors based on the video or workshop activities.
- What questions do the participants still have?
- How do the participants plan to address workshop issues in their classrooms?
This activity is from "A Private Universe" Teacher's Guide, produced by the Science Media Group of the Science Education Department at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.
© 1994 The Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
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